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SCOTUS – Shelby County v. Holder

On June 25th in Shelby County v. Holder the Supreme Court essentially gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). While I unfortunately do not have the time to go to great detail here, the court’s majority opinion rests on the presumption that the VRA violates multiple constitutional precepts, which (as with all such decisions) it goes at great lengths to outline.

The problem is, all of those constitutional precepts are based on the Constitution as it existed pre-Civil War. The decision entirely ignores two small but remarkably consequential details, namely the 14th and 15th amendments.

Those amendments say (14th):

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States … Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

and (15th):

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude … Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The emphasis being on “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation“.

In short, if Congress feels that it needs to legislate to achieve the aims of these amendments it has unbridled freedom to do so. It doesn’t matter how convoluted, antiquated, or silly it might seem to the SCOTUS (and the VRA is anything but silly), Congress has the right to do so.

In order for these amendments to become law, all of the states had to ratify the amendments. That means the states agreed to grant these powers to the Federal government.  Moreover since these amendments come after the main body of the Constitution, they supersede any prior language. They are in effect, “the Constitution”.

It is not complicated. The SCOTUS has no place here. In deciding to side against the VRA, they have not nullified a congressional act, they have nullified the Constitution itself. The only way to take this power away justifiably from Congress, would be a constitutional amendment itself. This is a vast overstep on the part of the SCOTUS and hard to not see as simply partisan.

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